If working from home for the past couple of months have taught us anything, it’s the fact that things can get pretty boring when you’re forced to be stuck indoors.
Sheltering in place from the pandemic doesn’t mean that you can’t protect yourself from the grim fate of cabin fever though. There’s a reason why Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch proved to be such a global smash hit — it was a timely title for folks looking for diversions during the lockdown climate.
But sprucing up a deserted island with Tom Nook and co isn’t the only form of escapism. We’re talking about PC gaming, perhaps the holy grail of playing hardcore video games with hardcore hardware. No longer something that you’ll need to pay a price premium for (though you absolutely can if you want to), being a PC gamer these days is an absolutely accessible hobby that can be configured to fit your budget.
Right now though, we won’t go through the weeds of choosing an AMD or Intel processor, or even debate if ray-tracing is worth the hype. What we do want to talk about is getting the edge on your competition by way of refresh rates, response times and resolutions. Let’s talk about getting the right gaming monitor for your setup.
One of the biggest misconceptions people have while purchasing is believing that more pixels equate to a better gaming experience. Another error involves the line of thought that bigger-sized screens are better.
Going big may make sense if you’re talking about television sets, but that’s not the logic to adopt when buying a gaming monitor. For one, you’ll be sitting less than a metre away from the screen on your desk, so getting a massive display wouldn’t make sense. Moving your head around to see if an enemy’s coming around the corner? That just wastes precious seconds — seconds you need to get the jump on him. What you’ll want to look for is a screen that allows you to see everything at once.
Which is why you might notice that a 24-inch screen is a popular pick among competitive gamers — the placement of the user interface is set in a smaller distance, thus allowing them to see everything at a glance without moving their eyeballs.
But most of us aren’t professional gamers, and 27 inches should hit that sweet spot for all our computing needs. It ain’t too big for an average workstation and not too small to enjoy content, video games or otherwise.
As for resolution, we bring you the harsh truth that 4K gaming might not be worth the mounds of cash needed to drop for more pixels. If optimised properly, games can look monumentally better running on 4K-res but there’s also the matter of actually having the top-notch hardware to run AAA video games at that high a resolution without compromising performance.
If you’ve invested in a higher performance GPU like the RTX 2080 Ti, for example, go buck wild with 4K. Anything less? Perhaps you’d be better off running games on lower resolutions to ensure framerates don’t suffer under the weight of computational pressure. When gaming on a competitive level though — especially for first-person shooters — 1080p is still the best bet for buttery- smooth aiming.
Now, what matters most when playing fast-paced online multiplayer games is not about how pretty it is — it’s how fast you can get your crosshairs on the enemy. And for that, we’ll have to consider refresh rates.
In a nutshell, the refresh rate is simply a measure of how many times per second the monitor can redraw the image on the screen. The higher the refresh rate, the faster the monitor can redraw the visuals, and the smoother the image is. Measured in hertz, a 144Hz display indicates that it updates 144 frames per second (FPS).
Having high refresh rates is finally something that the smartphone industry finally caught up to, and the results speak for themselves. But where the refresh rate is concerned, it’s crucial in competitive gaming. Panels with speedy refresh rates like 240Hz support rapid movements, supporting one’s accuracy with the mouse and offering that sweet split-second advantage.
Speaking of the speed, another aspect of importance is response time, i.e. the time it takes for the display to shift from one colour to another.
This matters because of a little something called “ghosting”. Not to be confused with Tinder dates that strangely vanish like apparitions, ghosting in gaming refers to the blurry, distorted after-images left behind on the screen because the monitor just isn’t able to keep up. It’s hell for frequent players of fast-paced shooters, especially when the reticles just don’t line up properly to make accurate shots.
Typically, monitors with Twisted Nematic (TN) screen panels offer the fastest response time though the drawback is that it’ll typically have a poor colour reproduction. Monitors with In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels, on the other hand, generate more vibrant, accurate colours… but they’re not so great in terms of latency and response time.
So! TN or IPS screens? It all boils down to your needs really. IPS panels can’t be as fast as TN ones, so when it comes to high-speed gaming, the latter might be ideal for the lower response time. For content creators who need colour accuracy, go for IPS.
The new normal
With all that in mind, we’ll just come out and say it: the BenQ ZOWIE XL2746S is the best monitor to complete your gaming setup, pandemic-induced or not. Made for the purpose of esports (specifically, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive), it’s a 27-inch full HD gaming monitor with a TN panel, a response speed of 0.5ms, and a native refresh rate of 240Hz.
The reason why CS:GO is mentioned is that the roots of the BenQ ZOWIE brand itself are so deeply intertwined with the Valve title. In the late aughts, BenQ pioneered the gaming monitor concept with the BenQ XL series, a result of a collaboration between the company’s product development team and professional Counter-Strike gamers, including the top-ranking players of yore Emil “HeatoN” Christensen and Abdisamad “SpawN” Mohamed. The BenQ XL2410 was the first monitor tailored for and marketed to gamers, the company proudly proclaims, with a then-niche 120Hz refresh rate.
Nearly a decade since its launch, BenQ continues to do what it does best: high-end, blazing-fast monitors for pro-league CS:GO players or any other gamers of fast-paced multiplayer shooters (and there are plenty these days). The XL2746S is packed with tech for fast motion gameplay, including something called the Dynamic Accuracy Plus (DyAc+), a new and improved version of BenQ’s proprietary feature that allows for better picture clarity without reducing the refresh rate. Things look sharp and movements remain buttery smooth with little to no motion blur.
As mentioned, TN panels do have some limitations in terms of colour reproduction, but there are some inbuilt features to nudge things along: Black eQualizer and Colour Vibrance.
Black eQualizer is to boost up the dark areas, without overexposing the whites. Basically, it makes the contrast flatter without really losing the contrast of the monitor — mostly useful in dark scenes in games, where you might having a hard time identifying the enemy.
Colour Vibrance, on the other hand, enables higher colour saturation. What it does is make sure your enemies pop up from the background of the game with more clarity, so you won’t miss a chance at making your shot.
Both are easily adjusted by a connected dongle called the S-Switch, which makes tweaking a lot simpler than messing with various buttons on the monitor. The S-Switch has three large preset buttons for users to switch between customised monitor colour settings for their games.
The height adjustment system has markers for users to remember the personal optimal height the screen should be in case it gets changed while transporting the monitor around esports event. Heck, this monitor has adjustable flaps on each side that lets gamers keep keener focus on the screen without distractions.
If all these sounds intense, it should be — this is hardcore hardware for the hardcore gamers. If all of it sounds enticing, you’re exactly the target demographic for the BenQ ZOWIE XL2746S.
This article is brought to you by BenQ